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Article ID: 308417 - Last Review: June 22, 2013 - Revision: 12.0

This article was previously published under Q308417

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INTRODUCTION

Windows allocates resources according to its settings and manages devices and programs accordingly. However, you can use the System item in Control Panel to change these performance options and how Windows manages them.

This article describes how to set the performance options for your computer by downloading and using Guided Help, or by using manual steps.

More information

Guided Help to set performance options in Windows XP

Guided Help
Guided Help files are unique programs that help you perform some common tasks in Windows XP. Guided Help is available to set performance options in Windows XP. Guided Help can guide you through the steps or can automatically perform the steps for you.

The actions that this Guided Help performs can be undone if it is necessary. To undo the actions that this Guided Help performs, run this Guided Help again, and then select your previous performance settings.
For more information about Guided Help, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
915092  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/915092/ ) Description of Guided Help for Microsoft Knowledge Base articles

Requirements to install and to use this Guided Help

  • You must be logged on to Windows by using a computer administrator account to install and to use this Guided Help.
  • You must be running Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Media Center Edition, or Windows XP Tablet PC Edition to install and to use this Guided Help.
You must first download the Guided Help file, and then double-click the file to run it. After you start Guided Help, follow the step-by-step instructions. To download this Guided Help, click the following link:
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/308417/ )
If you cannot download or install Guided Help you can follow the manual steps in this article.

Manual steps to set performance options in Windows XP

If you would rather not install and run Guided Help, you can set performance options in Windows XP manually.

This section is intended for advanced computer users. If you are not comfortable with advanced instructions, you might want to contact Support. For information about how to do this, visit the following Microsoft Web site:
http://support.microsoft.com/contactus (http://support.microsoft.com/contactus)
Note You must be logged on to Windows by using a computer administrator account in order to set many of these performance options. To verify that you are logged on to Windows with a user account that is a computer administrator, visit the following Microsoft Web site:
http://support.microsoft.com/gp/admin (http://support.microsoft.com/gp/admin)
To manually set performance options for your computer, follow these steps:

Step 1: Manually manage processor scheduling

There are a finite number of resources that are available for a computer's CPU. Windows manages these resources automatically, and can allocate tasks between processors or manage multiple processes on a single processor. You can adjust how Windows manages these resources by prioritizing them between the foreground programs and the background services.

By default, Windows puts a priority on the foreground programs. The added processing resources cause programs to respond more quickly. However, if you have background services, such as printing or disk backup that run while you work and you want them to respond faster, you can have Windows share processor resources equally between background and foreground programs.

Note If you are using your Windows XP computer as a server, allocating more resources to background services is recommended.

To manually change the performance of foreground and background programs, complete these steps:
  1. Click Start, click Run, type sysdm.cpl in the Open box, and then press ENTER to open the System Properties dialog box.
  2. Click the Advanced tab, and then under Performance click Settings.
  3. Click the Advanced tab, and then under Processor scheduling use one of the following methods:
    • Click Programs to assign more processor resources to the foreground programs. This setting is recommended for most users.
    • Click Background services to assign equal amounts of processor resources to all running services. This includes print jobs and applications.
  4. Click OK to apply preferences and close the dialog box.

Step 2: Manually manage computer memory

When your computer's physically installed random-access memory (RAM) is running low, Windows adds available memory by using a paging file, generally known as virtual memory, on the hard disk to simulate physical RAM. By default, the virtual memory paging file that is created during installation is 1.5 times the physical RAM on your computer. Therefore, a computer that has 1GB of installed RAM will have 1.5GB of virtual memory.

You can manually change the size of the paging file to make it larger or smaller. You can also optimize virtual memory use by dividing the file space between multiple drives and by removing allocated space from slow or heavily accessed drives. To optimize your virtual memory space, divide it among as many physical hard drives as possible. When you select drives, follow these guidelines:
  • Try to avoid having a paging file on the same drive as the system files, usually drive C.
  • Avoid putting a paging file on a fault-tolerant drive such as a mirrored volume or a RAID-5 volume. Paging files do not require fault tolerance, and some fault-tolerant computers experience slow data writes because they write data to multiple locations.
  • Do not put multiple paging files on different partitions on the same physical disk drive.
How to manually change the size of the virtual memory paging file
You must be logged on as an administrator or as a member of the administrator’s group to complete this procedure. If your computer is connected to a network, network policy settings may prevent you from completing this procedure.

To manually change the size of virtual memory, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, click Run, type sysdm.cpl in the Open box, and then press ENTER.
  2. Click the Advanced tab, and then under Performance click Settings.
  3. Click the Advanced tab, and then under Virtual memory click Change.
  4. Under Drive [Volume Label], click the drive that contains the paging file that you want to change.
  5. Under Paging file size for selected drive, click Custom size, type a new paging file size in megabytes (MB) in the Initial size (MB) or Maximum size (MB) box, and then click Set.
  6. Click OK to close the dialog box and apply changes.
Note After you change the size of the paging file, you may be prompted to restart Windows. If you are prompted to restart, the changes will not take effect until Windows is restarted.

Notes
  • To have Windows select the best paging file size, click System managed size. The recommended minimum size is the same as 1.5 times the RAM on your computer, and 3 times that figure for the maximum size. For example, if you have 256 MB of RAM, the minimum size is 384 MB, and the maximum size is 1152 MB.
  • For best performance, do not set the initial size to less than the minimum recommended size under Total paging file size for all drives. The recommended size is the same as 1.5 times the RAM on your computer. It is good practice to leave the paging file at its recommended size as performance can decrease if a paging file is too large. However, you may increase its size if you frequently use programs that use lots of memory, such as graphics programs or games.
  • We strongly recommend that you do not disable or delete the paging file because this can lessen the computer's performance. However, if you decide to delete a paging file, set both the initial size and the maximum size to zero, or click No paging file.
How to manually optimize the memory usage
You can optimize your computer's memory usage to reflect your specific needs. If your computer is used as a workstation instead of as a server, you can increase performance by devoting more memory to your programs. Your programs will work faster and the system cache size will remain the default size that was included with Windows XP. Or, you can set aside more computer memory for a larger system cache if your computer is used primarily as a server, or if you use programs that require a large system cache.
  1. Click Start, click Run, type sysdm.cpl in the Open box, and then press ENTER.
  2. Click the Advanced tab, and then under Performance click Settings.
  3. Click the Advanced tab, and then under Memory usage use one of the following methods:
    • Click Programs if you use your computer primarily as a workstation instead of as a server. This option allocates more memory to your programs.
    • Click System cache if your computer is used primarily as a server or if you use programs that use a large system cache.
  4. Click OK to save preferences and close the dialog box.

Step 3: Manually change the visual effects

Windows provides several options to set the visual effects of your computer. For example, you can show shadows under menus or you can configure Windows to display all the contents of a window while you move the window on your screen.

Note Although many of the visual effects can make computer use more enjoyable by offering a more attractive interface, they can slow down your computer.

Windows provides options to turn on all visual effects options, turn off all options, or automate them. You can also restore the default settings or set your own custom options by selecting for yourself what visual effects that you want to use.

To change the visual effects, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, click Run, type sysdm.cpl in the Open box, and then press ENTER.
  2. Click the Advanced tab, and then under Performance click Settings.
  3. Click the Visual Effects tab, and then use one of the following methods:
    • Click Let Windows choose what's best for my computer to have Windows select the visual effects.
    • Click Adjust for best appearance to have Windows automatically adjust the settings for best appearance.
    • Click Adjust for best performance to have Windows automatically adjust the settings for best performance.
    • Click Custom, and then select the check boxes for those items that you want to turn on. Clear the check boxes for the items that you want to turn off.
  4. Click OK to apply changes and to close the dialog box.
Note Regardless of which visual effects option you select, you can always customize the setting by individually selecting or clearing items listed. If you change any item, the Custom button will automatically be selected.

Glossary

background program A background program is a program that runs while the user is working on another task. The computer's microprocessor assigns fewer resources to background programs than to foreground programs.

environment variable An environment variable is a string of environment information such as a drive, path, or file name that is associated with a symbolic name that Windows can use. You use System in Control Panel or the set command at the command prompt to define environment variables.

foreground program A foreground program is a program that runs in the active window (the upper-most window with the highlighted title bar). The foreground program responds to commands that the user issues.

mirrored volume A mirrored volume is a fault-tolerant volume that duplicates data on two physical disks. A mirrored volume provides data redundancy by using two identical volumes. These volumes are known as mirrors. They duplicate the information that the volume contains. A mirror is always located on a different disk. If one of the physical disks fails, the data on the failed disk becomes unavailable, but the system continues to operate in the mirror on the remaining disk. You can create mirrored volumes only on dynamic disks.

paging file Generally known as "virtual memory", a paging file is a section of a hard disk that is created in order to extend available memory. When Windows runs low on physical memory (RAM) that is installed, the paging file will be used as "virtual" memory. By default, Windows transfers data for background services and idle programs to this paging file in order to free more RAM for programs that are currently being used.

partition A partition is part of a physical disk that functions as if it were a physically separate disk. After you create a partition, you must format it and assign it a drive letter before you can store data on it. On basic disks, partitions are known as basic volumes. Basic volumes include primary partitions and logical drives. On dynamic disks, partitions are known as dynamic volumes. Dynamic volumes include simple, striped, spanned, mirrored, and RAID-5 volumes.

RAID-5 volume A RAID-5 volume is a fault-tolerant volume with data and parity striped intermittently across three or more physical disks. Parity is a calculated value that is used to reconstruct data after a failure. If a part of a physical disk fails, Windows recreates the data that was on the failed part from the remaining data and parity. You can create RAID-5 volumes only on dynamic disks, and you cannot mirror or extend RAID-5 volumes.

NEXT STEPS

If these methods did not work for you, you can use the Microsoft Customer Support Services Web site to find other solutions to your problem. Some services that the Microsoft Customer Support Services Web sites provide include the following:
  • Searchable Knowledge Base (http://support.microsoft.com/search/?adv=1) : Search technical support information and self-help tools for Microsoft products.
  • Solution Centers (http://support.microsoft.com/select/?target=hub) : View product-specific frequently asked questions and support highlights.
  • Other Support Options (http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?pr=csshome) : Use the Web to ask a question, contact Microsoft Customer Support Services, or provide feedback.
If you need more help setting performance options in Windows XP, you might want to contact Support:
http://support.microsoft.com/contactus (http://support.microsoft.com/contactus)


For help with system performance issues in Windows Vista, visit the following Microsoft web page:
Problems with overall system speed and system performance (http://support.microsoft.com/gp/slow_windows_performance)

References

For more information about how to move the paging file, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
307886  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307886/ ) How to move the paging file in Windows XP

Applies to
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Keywords: 
kbhowto kbacwsurvey kbvirtualmem kbenv KB308417
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